Category Archives: Entrepreneurship

Student entrepreneurship is ‘not a science’: Weiss Tech House panel

*This was first posted in my Technical.ly Philly Column 

Group photo of the student panelAs part of the Penn Innovation Week, the Weiss Tech House brought together a student entrepreneurship panel composed of Dan Fine, Aaron Goldstein, Christopher Gray, Roopa Shankar and Alina Wong — the founders of Glass-U, Fever Smart, Scholly and NOMsense Bakery, respectively.

Here are the lessons they hoped to impart.

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Business while Doing Good: Social Entrepreneurship in Washington, D.C.

There has been a recent shift in paradigms when in the corporate and non-profit sectors. What previously has been thought to be in the opposite ends of the spectrum, the corporate and non-profit field has found an intersection in social entrepreneurship. Social entrepreneurship has been given many different definitions but at its core, social entrepreneurship is about creating sustainable enterprises that focus on dealing with a social problem or creating a social good through different models.

Having been exposed to the local scene of social entrepreneurship in the likes of Gawad Kalinga (GK) Enchanted Farm, Rags to Riches, IdeaSpace Foundation, and Kalibrr among others, I was excited to see what social impact ventures and innovations I could find in the US, and possibly introduce similar models to the Philippines. 

DC Trip Global Giving, DC Central Kitchen, GoodSpread

Given my interests in exploring different types of social enterprises, I quickly went ahead and joined the Penn Social Entrepreneurship Movement (PennSEM). One month later, and I got the opportunity to not only bond and learn from my fellow PennSEM members but also go on a “social enterprise field trip” in the nation’s capital, Washington D.C. There we got to meet the founders and managers of four different social enterprises: DC Central Kitchen, Global Giving, Armani Ya Juu, and GoodSpread.

Bonding session with the PennSEM team

Bonding session with the PennSEM team

Empowering the poor through job training models

Starting out, we were quickly introduced to the very efficient and innovative operations of DC Central Kitchen, which recycles food, feeds the homeless and trains them in the culinary arts. DC Central Kitchen’s job training program for the homeless focuses on self-empowerment, developing a supportive community and professional skills training to help prepare the graduates to work either in a partner restaurant or go full circle by working in DC Central Kitchen.

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YCombinator at Penn: Do things that make you uncomfortable

Last Tuesday, October 7, 2014, YCombinator partners Dalton Caldwell, Qasar Younis and Kat Manalac and YC Alumni Reham Fagiri visited Penn today to talk to students about their startup experiences and answer questions in the fire-side chat.

YC Partners with Nilesh during the fire-side chat

YC Partners with Nilesh during the fire-side chat

YC Alumni Reham Fagiri kicked things off by talking about her experience building her startup AptDeco, and what her stint at YC taught her. The inspiration for AptDeco came from her own experience of having a hard time selling her furniture after she graduated from college. She then did some market research and talked to different people. Before she knew it, she had developed a prototype and beta-tested it. After the private and public beta, the idea of applying for YC came about.

It was through YC that they realized how important there customers truly are. Fagiri candidly admitted, “We thought just because we ran an online marketplace, we didn’t need to be where our market was. We were completely wrong.” Having said that, Fagiri and her team needed to fly back and forth from NYC to San Francisco during the duration of YC. Continue reading

Erik Kimel at Penn: Preparing you for what’s next

The Penn Social Entrepreneurship Movement (PennSEM) recently invited Erik Kimel, the Director of Brand Activation for Harry’s, to the University of Pennsylvania to talk about his experiences starting his own social enterprise in high school Peer2Peer, his current role in Harry’s and their up and coming initiative, “H’University”.

Members of PennSEM listening to Erik Kimel

Members of PennSEM listening to Erik Kimel

The Peer2Peer Days

With a desire to find a way to connect students with each other, and at the same time create value for both himself and his consumers, Kimel just one day decided to post a $50 ad on a newspaper to see if anyone needed a tutor. After spending time and really working with his first tutee, word spread around, and the Peer2Peer tutoring service was born during the start of Kimel’s senior year in high school. Continue reading

Did 3 Penn freshmen build the future of vision at PennApps X?

This article was taken from my column at Technical.ly Philly: https://technical.ly/philly/2014/10/02/3-penn-freshmen-build-future-vision-pennapps-x/

“What if a piece of software could tell you what exactly was in front of you with one simple command?” was the pitch that won ThirdEye a spot in the top 10 at last month’s PennApps X.

ThirdEye is an image recognition system for the visually impaired that takes a picture using Google Glass, recognizes what it is and tells you about it through an earpiece or speaker.

The hackers behind the innovative Google Glass app were first-time hackathon participants: Ben Sandler, Joe Cappadona and Rajat Bhageria. They were also the only all-freshmen team to make it to the top 10.

With Cappadona programming since 8th grade, Sandler having interned at a couple of tech startups and Bhageria having build his own media startup, CaféMocha, which he describes as the SoundCloud for creative writers, these three computer science majors were all excitedly anticipating their first hackathon.

Forming the ThirdEye Team

Bhageria, Cappadona and Sandler weren’t initially part of the same team. However, a few hours before the competition started, Bhageria and Cappadona’s team members backed out, so they were looking for more team members. This led to them wandering around and running into Sandler who wanted to work on a hack for the Google Glass.

Remembering the struggles that his grandfather faced as a blind man, Cappadona was hit with an app idea they could work on — an app that would allow Google Glass to recognize whatever was in front of it.

“Blind people want to be independent. They don’t want others to think that they are physically inept because they lost their sight,” Cappadona said. “They’re still fully capable of most things. This really inspired our project.”

The team now had an idea, the only problem: they barely had experience building an Android app, let alone integrating it with Google Glass.

This is where the hackathon fun came in.

The ThirdEye team pitching during the finals. (Photo courtesy of Major League Hacking)

Read more here: https://technical.ly/philly/2014/10/02/3-penn-freshmen-build-future-vision-pennapps-x/

Paul Graham’s Best Advice to Aspiring Entrepreneurs: JUST LEARN! (Notes from CS183B: How to Start a Startup Lecture 3)

Paul Graham was the guest speaker for this week's lecture

Paul Graham was the guest speaker for this week’s lecture

Not as many people showed up for this week’s viewing lecture for “CS183B: How to Start a Startup” but nonetheless, the discussion group proved to be really interesting and insightful as we not only discussed key points in the lecture but we also talked about problems we faced and how we could solve them. It was really interesting how we ended up talking about very diverse fields from machine learning to education to media and journalism to weather, wearables and smart fabric to networking and starting a startup in college. (You can jump straight to our discussion group’s points by scrolling down to the last part).

You can view resources for the class here: http://startupclass.samaltman.com/

My overall takeaway from today though was that there’s no set-way or formula to starting a startup. There are certain things that worked for some entrepreneurs that didn’t work for other entrepreneurs. At the end of the day, starting a startup is really just about having an idea, getting cofounders, building a product users love, getting feedback from users, committing your time to your startup then just LEARNING every step of the way.

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